Have you ever let your cat frolic outside while working on organizing your backyard, only to discover that your cat is nowhere to be found?
There is a good chance your little one might have been accidentally locked inside your shed.
Most cats that end up being locked inside a shed can expect to survive up to 2 weeks.
We will discuss why your cat went into the shed in the first place and the factors that can either hinder or extend their survival.
How did my cat end up locked in a shed?
Cats do mysterious things that we still can’t offer explanations for, but we can identify the four main things cats escape and end up locked in sheds unintentionally, which are all based on their instincts.
They’re natural hunters.
No matter how domesticated they are, cats will always remain hunters, and they’re most active in the early morning and late evening.
So, if you’re working outside during twilight hours, chances are your cat could be sneaking into the shed to stalk common prey such as lizards, mice, and bugs.
They’re looking for a mate.
If you haven’t taken your cat to the vet to get either spayed or neutered, chances are they’ll be trying much harder to go outside and look for a mate.
If you have a female in heat, you’ll be attracting tomcats into your property, raising the chances that you might have an unwanted visitor inside trying to find a mate.
Cats are highly intuitive about the environment they live in. Any new subject in their territory will spark immediate curiosity.
Sometimes, their curiosity helps detect and protect them from any dangerous situation. Other times, they generally explore and find new spots to cozy up and take cat naps.
They’re stressed or ill.
When cats are under huge stress (such as being chased by a predator or avoiding a thunderstorm), they jump to action and quickly hide until the danger dissipates.
Some cats can be hyper-vigilant and would remain unknowingly hidden in sheds, at risk of being locked inside.
When a cat is ill or close to death, they choose a particular hidden spot to avoid being compromised in a vulnerable position.
If your cat feels sick, they could seek shelter in sheds to be alone.
How long can my cat survive locked in a shed?
Cats are some of the most resilient creatures on Earth!
Given the strength of cats, it doesn’t mean they’re invincible. Cats can survive, but there are certain factors in play when it comes to their survival.
Cats can live for up to two weeks without food, so long as they have a source of water. However, they cannot go without a protein source longer than 3 to 4 days, unlike humans.
That means, even with an adequate water source, they are at risk of many kinds of severe organ damage and disease.
Proteins are vital for cats because their livers are not meant to take in stored energy and always need a constant source. When cats are in extreme starvation, an illness develops called Hepatic Lipidosis.
When the liver is breaking down the fats rapidly for nutrients, it becomes overwhelmed, and fat deposits start to develop on the liver cells.
This further compromise its functionality, leading it to become fatal.
Metabolism slows down organ failure starts to develop the longer the cat goes without a food source.
Eventually, the organs shut down, starting with the digestive tract, then the brain, and following the last organ, the heart.
Cats can actually go without water for at least 3 to 4 days; given cats have a weak sense of dehydration, they can start to go through irreversible organ damage and failure.
Dehydration poses an even bigger threat for these three groups
- Elderly cats
- Cats with ailments
Kittens burn up more energy quickly, putting them at a high risk of dehydration at a faster rate.
Elderly cats pose a different problem since their metabolism is much slower, their skin is thinner, and they are prone to infections. Dehydration will exasperate their conditions.
Cats with ailments are affected as well, but illnesses that include vomiting and diarrhea make them prone to death from dehydration.
Cats can be prescribed with medication for many different issues. For some medications, they can leave a cat going through withdrawal symptoms if discontinued suddenly.
Over-the-counter flea medications such as Frontline will be an advantage if locked in a shed. Still, other medications such as prednisone and anti-depressants can leave a cat going through major withdrawal.
Prednisone is a steroid prescribed to treat allergies in cats.
If they miss a dose while locked in a shed, they will develop Addison’s Disease, a condition where the hormones being regulated by the medication start to drop.
This can stop electrolytes and nutrients from being absorbed, causing sudden dehydration and undernourishment.
With anti-depressants such as sertraline (Zoloft), their withdrawal symptoms will leave your cat developing more anxiety and serious interruption in their sleep.
Cats on Prozac, however, will be able to avoid withdrawal due to the speed of the drug’s metabolism.
Gabapentin is another medication that is used to treat cats with chronic anxiety. Missing their dose for more than a day can leave them vulnerable to body tremors and seizures.
How does a cat survive when locked up?
Even though it’s a frightening situation to imagine your cat locked in a shed with no way of getting food and water, there is hope!
Cats are resourceful, and if they are locked in a shed, they will find ways to survive being trapped.
Depending on the shed set up and how often your cat goes out, they will remember when and what prey sneak in and hunt them for food.
If the shed has multiple shelves, cats can climb up and search for prey such as spiders, flies, and lizards.
They also provide a high space for cats to sleep and safety if the shed floods during rainy weather or storms.
Food and water sources
If they have a water source such as a water valve or a sink, this will supply enough water to stave off hydration.
An alternative source for water would be the moisture from the prey they catch.
Weather and climate
What also comes to play when surviving locked in a shed is the geographical location and what season of the year the cat gets trapped.
One main benefit of a shed with insulation is protecting cats from the elements.
For hot and cold days, insulated sheds can at least help extend their life by keeping temperatures from reaching extremes and causing irreversible harm to their bodies.
When sheds are dark a night, cats will not have any issues seeing in total darkness.
What allows their eyes to absorb one-sixth of the light humans can see is because their retina has many more rods that make their eyes incredibly sensitive to light.
This makes hunting prey in the middle of the night much easier for cats.
How to care for a cat that was locked in a shed?
Once you finally find your cat after unlocking your shed, you enter into a state of panic and try to feed and hydrate as much as possible to care for them.
Even though you mean well, it could actually be even more dangerous trying to feed your cat at once after starving and dehydrating.
Here I will show you what you need to do to nurse your cat to health!
Feed small meals at a time
When it comes to cats, you want to avoid giving them a lot of food and water. But depending on their health, you can effectively help them recover to a full state of health without a hospital visit.
You want to replenish them with a small amount of wet food. It was the essential nutrients and protein and enough moisture to provide hydration.
You want to feed them a few tablespoons of wet food every hour. You will also want to provide a small amount of carbohydrates along with their wet food.
In order to make sure your cat is getting adequately hydrated, it is recommended to add a little more water into the bowl with the wet food to create a bisque.
Cats may not want to take in that much food due to their digestive system recovering.
So, you want to have a bowl of water mixed with a little bit of chicken broth to gently re-hydrate your cat with electrolytes.
Talk to your vet if you have any additional questions about caring for your cat after freeing them from the shed. They will recommend vitamin supplements to help with recovery.
If you have a kitten or senior cat, you must take them straight to the hospital.
Their bodies are not adjusted to taking in a lot of food and water all at the same time. Vets can help re-hydrate your cat with intravenous fluids.
Regardless, if any cat is not eating or drinking after being rescued from a shed, this also needs immediate attention. They will need to be force-fed to treat hepatic lipidosis.
It is not a pleasant process for a cat to go through, but with tender loving care and recovery, your cat will feel normal again!
So, the next time your cats venture outdoor, always remember to make sure no cat is in the shed when locking up.